Before Mom and I moved to Tennessee 25 years ago, we left Illinois in a motor home with a motorcycle and scooter hanging off the front and back. My goal was to see every national park in the United States, and Canada from Victoria to St. John’s, Newfoundland. We were able to do that, over the course of 17 months, and even better, was the decision to settle in Townsend, TN just outside the Cades Cove Loop Road entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Of all the beautiful places on the North American continent, there is nowhere I would rather live.
I have been in the tourist/hospitality industry ever since, with the last 10 years as the owner/operator of Gracehill Bed and Breakfast. During that time, I have sent and given directions to thousands of people looking for the Cove. Furthermore, if you only have two nights, one full day in the Smokies, I say a drive around Cades Cove with a little hiking on its many trails, needs to be at the top of the list.
The Great Smokies is the most visited National Park in the U.S. and Cades Cove the most visited “attraction” in it. It is a pioneer settlement from the late 1800’s, early 1900’s, in a bowl depression surrounded by lofty mountains. (Think spacious skies and purple mountain majesties…) It’s filled with log cabins, churches, cemeteries, a gristmill and my favorite, the barns.
It helps to know some things about the Cove. It features a newly paved 11-mile, single lane, one-way loop road. It opens at sunrise, closes at dark, and those are the two times you will see the most wildlife. If you are the type to take home a pic of every deer, pull over so the car behind you can pass. It is closed to vehicular traffic on Saturday and Wednesday mornings till 10am, May through September, for bicycle and foot traffic. You can rent bikes at the entrance or bring your own. In the winter or early spring, with no stops, the drive can take an hour and 15 minutes. Weekends in the summer plan on a couple of hours. In October, arrive very early and preferably during the week. I’ll pack you a picnic breakfast to go. Bring your camera and tripod for the mist rising off the water shots. A Saturday afternoon in October, could take four hours. Make sure you have enough gas. The last gas station at the Townsend entrance is the Marathon at the KOA Campground. If you make it out of the Cove on fumes, you can just about coast the nine miles back into Townsend. The only tricky spot is the stop sign at the “Wye.” I tried coasting once. Was probably a little irritating to the driver behind me, but what the heck, I was in pursuit of empirical knowledge!
There are two gravel roads that bisect the Cove going in both directions. If you start going through sugar withdrawal, hang a left on Sparks or Hyatt Lane and it will shorten the trip. A little more than half way around, by the Cable Mill, is a visitor center and restroom facilities. The last 1/3 of the drive is more heavily wooded, but my favorite. Everything is closer to the road and most of the barns are there.
Books have been written about Cades Cove and the history of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, many of them here on the library table. You can Google Cades Cove and come up with 100s of articles from many different perspectives. The Park puts out a good brochure with numbered stops. You can pick it up at the entrance for $1, or I have multiple copies here, if you want to read it before you go. My intent was to write an article on the Cades Cove Preservation Association, with a little history of the Cove first. Hmmm. Next installment another day. Blessings, mizkathleen@ GracehillRead More
For the fourth year in a row, the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center had a Blue Ribbon Country Fair on the same weekend as Old Timers Day in Cades Cove, the Nawger Nob Arts and Crafts Show, and the Fall Festival at the Townsend Visitor Center. Saying it is an action packed weekend is an understatement! Just about everyone in our small town is volunteering (or attending) somewhere, and it is tough choosing when they are on both Friends of the Library (food booth at the Fall Festival), Hearts and Hands Scholarship Fund, (Fall Festival), or the Guild at the Heritage Center (Country Fair) etc. etc.
Since September 1st, I have been steady every day with guests; I emptied out today for a few days, in time to get my act together for OCTOBER. The leaves are still green, but today we got some much needed rain and the temps dropped dramatically. I am sitting here with the doors open listening to the rain considering putting on a pair of socks! Life is good. The fall display is up and I have been blessed with business and blue ribbons.
Last year in preparation for the Fair, I worked on my blueberry almond pound cake for the entire year. Must have made it 20 times, 20 different ways. Won 3rd place. This year I waited till three days before the Fair, and started searching on the web for a perfect perfectly plain pound cake. Eccch! Wednesday morning, I made Paula Deen’s and served it to guests. Wednesday night, I made an orange cream cheese pound cake from the Joy of Baking, but was the only one still up to taste it warm out of the oven. Thought I’d died and gone to heaven. Six hours later I was up and made another one for breakfast, reportedly Elvis Presley’s favorite from the Epicurious.com website. I tasted it warm and thought it was the perfect plain pound cake. Had my guests taste all three and it was evenly divided between Elvis’s and the orange. (Dear Paula, you can’t win them all…) On my way into town, I had the neighbors try them and all the folks at the Sunshine Chiropractic office. At room temp, hands down, the orange cream cheese won the vote. It’s a good thing I ran it by a few people because I probably would have gone with Elvis’s, thinking plain would be better this time around. What makes his recipe unusual is it contains whip cream and you put it in a cold oven, then turn it on!
At any rate, I made another orange pound cake Friday morning for the Fair. We had a funeral Saturday morning, and the bake sale at the Fall Festival, so four pound cakes went the way of the gooney bird! We won win a blue ribbon, thank you, Joy of Baking. Don’t know if they are related to Joy of Cooking or not; that has always been my recipe bible. Click here for the link to the recipe. We also won a blue ribbon for my mom’s apricot bread. Again I made three loaves in two days, changing the recipe each time while Mom and I bickered back and forth. Her pumpkin pie recipe got a 2nd place finish. I am not much for pumpkin pie, but after winning a ribbon guess we better make it this year at Thanksgiving! I did mess around with that recipe also, tried to attach some cut out pastry leaves to the sides of the crust and added pecans to the bottom of the crust. The leaves sank and the pecans floated to the surface! Blessings, mizkathleen @ Gracehill Bed and BreakfastRead More
When is food less about what we put in our mouths and more about a work of art? In a third world country there is no doubt about the answer, but here in the States, for some people, the answer is harder to discern. It’s not only how we present our food, but increasingly, where we buy it and where they bought it! (Think egg recall…) My mom, one of the world’s best cooks, can take a pot off the stove and plunk it on the table. God bless her, she did it for three meals a day for 25 years, and I am proof that we never went hungry. I, on the other hand, think first about what flowers I can pick from the garden, what china they go with, then what food would look good on that china! I’m glad I have the luxury of being able to think that way.
As the world becomes more and more aware of the origins of our food, I’m happy to say at age 11, Jake Molina, the nephew of my friend and Gracehill Wizard Extraordinaire, Julie, has started raising chickens. We are the grateful recipients of the product thereof! Jake’s mom Dawn says, “I don’t know if ours could be called free range chickens because they are not always free to range. We have lots of coyotes and neighborhood dogs that want to eat them. They have their big yard to roam and scratch in, but we only let them range when we are outside. They definitely could be called cage free though!” Beside the Americaunas, Jake also has Buff Orpington, Rhode Island Reds, Silver Laced Wyandottes and Golden Comets. They hope to get some Black Copper Marans that are prized by French chefs. Ooh la la! (Americanized version. My sister the French major says they would say, Oh la la la!)
In little ways, with our herb garden, veggies, and fruit we pick locally, we are trying to bring fresher food to the table. You all know my love affair with blueberries. I’m lucky the three couples who checked in a few days ago for four nights liked them also. I made a new recipe, Blueberry Cream Cheese French Toast in a 9X13 pan which I posted on my recipe page with a photo. This year we’ve put about a 100# in the freezer, but will continue using fresh for another couple of weeks. In the past two weeks, my five attempts to make a decent blueberry cobbler have been dismal. It’s nice that I have wonderful friends, who tell me otherwise, but alas, they are lying through their teeth, and I am moving on to try other things… blessings, mizkathleen@ Gracehill Bed and BreakfastRead More
It’s been a heck of a year; the worst winter we have experienced since building Gracehill and the hottest, driest summer on record since… who knows, it keeps going further back with each week that passes. Our elevation gives us a little relief with temps 5 to 10 degrees cooler than what is happening in Townsend, Gatlinburg, or Knoxville plus the usual breezes. The dry weather has also made the zinnias look especially beautiful because we aren’t fighting powdery mildew this year, but the Peegee hydrangea bushes are not as lush as in years past, and we lost the marigolds. It’s a trade off. I’d rather fight the mildew than haul buckets of water. We should have hauled more often for the marigolds…
I bought a Flip Video Camera, and it took three months to get it out of the box. You know me with anything electronic. Click on the link for a video taken in the backyard of the dozens of butterflies that are hanging around. Don’t be concerned that I have developed palsy; I just need to get the hang of this moving camera business!
Since the main topic here is the weather, I’ve come up with a lovely excuse for not blogging more frequently this year. We were struck by lightning on Friday of Memorial Day weekend. It was a direct hit, and as bad as it was with all our electronic low voltage systems, we are extremely grateful the house didn’t catch on fire. Guests were coming up the hill 20 minutes after the fire trucks rolled down. Our guests were amazing, and I couldn’t have asked for a nicer bunch of people. That weekend TV’s were out and they had to use my laptop with the Verizon air card to check emails, but other than that, guest services were not really affected. It has taken me three months to get everything else replaced like the intercom, doorbells, phones, TV’s, alarm system, satellites, my computer, electronics for our water system, motors on a couple of the whirlpool tubs, etc…
I have been a little more regular with my posts on Twitter (theinnkeeper) or Facebook (Gracehill Bed and Breakfast) and our bi-monthly newsletter. You can sign up for any of these on the home page of our website. Blessings, mizkathleen@ Gracehill Bed and BreakfastRead More
The 29thannual Gatlinburg Scottish Festival is a lot more than just a 2-½ day runner up to the week long Grandfather Mountain Highland Games held July 8-11, on Grandfather Mountain near Linville, NC.
The Gatlinburg, Tennessee games, held May 14-16, 2010 at Mills Park, 1230 E. Parkway, on the northeast side of Gatlinburg, spotlights Celtic Scottish history, culture, and events. My family has attended a few times in the past five years, and one of my previous East Tennessee Smoky Mountains Bed and Breakfast guests, Roger Underwood, plays in the Knoxville Pipes and Drums which just appeared in the Dollywood International Parade. He generously provided the photos for this blog.
The bag pipers lead off the festivities at 6 p.m., on Friday, May 14th, with a parade down the Parkway in downtown Gatlinburg. If you are a Scot, you may walk behind or follow in a trolley. A gala reception follows at the Quality Inn Creekside.
For a small admission, events start at 8:30 a.m. at Mills Park both Saturday and Sunday. Highlights for my family have always been the Border Collie demonstrations, the Celtic rock bands, and the competitive sporting events. But, there are so many things going on, you can pick and choose. Visit with over 60 heritage and clan societies to assist in exploring your heritage. Be sure to stay for the Ceilidh Under the Stars, which starts at 7:30 p.m.
Center stage is a plethora of bagpipe bands. Click here for a U-Tube video of the Knoxville Pipe and Drum Band. Under tents and on stages, you will find Celtic punk bands, balladeers on guitars, and highland dancing. Sheep dog trials will be conducted twice daily. Men, women, and kids compete in both amateur and pro competitions for several stone putting games: braemar stone, open stone, heavy hammer, turning the caber, tossing the haggis, sheaf, WFH and heavy and light WFD. Vendors offer food, jewelry, books, music, and Scottish clothing. Visit www.gsfg.orgfor more information or call (865) 368-2543. Dress for the weather, no pets allowed, and consider staying at one of the many bed and breakfasts in the area! mizkathleen@ Gracehill Bed and Breakfast.
If you need to feel righteous about golfing while your beloved “makes do” with a massage and a half-day shopping the Pigeon Forge outlets, this is the event for you. For the eleventh year, Friends of the Mary E. Tippitt Memorial Library are hosting their Golf Tournament Benefit on Friday, April 23rd, 2010 at the Laurel Valley Golf Course in Townsend, Tennessee.
Proceeds from the tournament benefit the Library by helping fund the services that the Library provides to the community. (See below for the love story.) Registration for the golf tournament starts at 11:30 a.m., with lunch provided for the participants. The tournament starts at 1:00 p.m. Entry fee for players is $80, with an available $20 mulligan package. You can pick up forms at the Mary E. Tippitt Memorial Library, 120 Tiger Dr, Townsend, TN, at the Townsend Visitor Center on Highway 321, and the Laurel Valley Country Club.
In the past, a dozen or more teams of four players have enjoyed playing 18 holes at this beautiful mountain course. Cash prizes are awarded to the best team, closest to the hole, longest drive, and longest putt. This year a special plaque, which will be on display at the clubhouse, honors the winning team. Numerous door prizes and a new car, for a hole-in-one add to the day’s excitement. For more information call Mike Roach at (865) 448-8282. For hole sponsorship contact Judy Krueger at (865) 448-6501.
Don’t you just hate the e-mails you receive that say “You have to read to the end”? Well, I’m glad you did. In 1997, Charles Tippitt opened the Townsend library from scratch as a memorial tribute to his first wife Mary. He rented the space and filled it with 5000 books for adults and children. Over the years it has more than quadrupled in size and grown to a new location, and for a town our size, it is a marvel of information and activity including public access to computers and various children’s programs. Later Charles married Ms. Sue Ann Schlosser, a librarian from Sikeston, Missouri. Sikeston’s loss was our gain when Sue Ann relocated here. Our community has been doubly blessed. mizkathleen@ Gracehill Bed and Breakfast
At the Library and open to all, at 10 a.m. the third Thursday of each month is B.E.A.R. (Be Excited About Reading) Facts Book Club!Read More
While the Cades Cove loop road or Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail are big draws for our guests at this East Tennessee Bed and Breakfast, the Great Smoky Mountain National Park is doing some needed repairs on these heavily trafficked roads starting March 1st, 2010. Roads affected and the targeted completion of these repairs are:
Cades Cove Loop (that will also close one-way Parsons Branch & Rich Mountain Rd) 5/21 (an update from the Park, the Loop Rd. will open a month early on 4/24!)
Clingman’s Dome 5/28
The Sinks parking area 5/25
Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail 5/28
& Cherokee Orchard past the Noah B Ogle cabin 3/19
While these are some of the Park site seeing highlights, these closures will not affect normal “drive through” traffic on the artery roads. Trails accessed from the roads under repair will be closed also, but with 900 miles of trails in the Park, you have a plethora of choices to choose from. As always, for up to date information on closures call the National Park at 865-436-1200. Extension 631 will give you road closures, and extension 630 is the weather report.
So you might ask yourself WHAT IS A PERSON TO DO while we deal with the face lift? Jeepers, :-O not to worry! There are enough outdoor nature activities besides the shop till you drop experience in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge to keep you busy for a week. Or, why not order a picnic lunch or appetizer tray and stay here? Come to breakfast in your robe and curl up in front of the fireplace with a good book, game, or watch a little satellite TV afterwards.
Several years ago on New Years Eve, guests Craig and Ashley stayed here while their friends Allen and Jodi got married in the area. The next year they came back and brought Allen and Jodi with them, appearing to have become a yearly tradition. (Lucky me…) After breakfast on New Years Eve this year, Jodi dug a 1000 piece puzzle out of the game cabinet and said she thought she would put it together. This was the last full day of their stay and honestly I was thinking she is out of her mind. It would take me the whole three days of their stay just to pick out the straight edge pieces and get the perimeter put together. A few hours later I took the middle photo you see on the left. They broke for dinner and went out and about; afterwards, with the four of them watching TV, Jodi continued. Occasionally someone else would plunk in a piece. By midnight she was down to the last couple of hundred pieces and had the full attention of all of us. I think we/SHE finished around 2 or 3 AM. I believe the government is missing the boat by not offering her a job. (“Should she choose to accept…”) I can see her sitting in a room with no windows, low light, and piecing together something that saves us from ourselves. With five minutes to spare. What a gift. mizkathleen@ Gracehill